Ride for the Disabled inaugurated
Alaska Highway News
The North Peace Light Horse Association in cooperation with the local Rotary club will be inaugurating a Ride for the Disabled at the Equestrian Centre, Sunday October 17 at 2 pm.
Designed to give physically handicapped children a chance to learn to ride horseback, the program will provide free hour-long lessons of four children once a week for eight weeks. The goal of the program is to teach the children to ride by themselves but organizers admit this will not always be possible.
“It is amazing what these kids can do after one lesson. It is good therapy. It is also good psychologically when a handicapped kid can go home and tell his brothers and sisters he can ride a horse,” says NPLHA spokesman Barbara Daley.
The new program requires a considerable number of dedicated volunteers to operate. Three people are needed for each handicapped child, one to lead the horse and two to stand on either side. This means that to provide places for four children, 12 volunteers have to put aside two hours a week each for eight weeks running, Daley explains.
And what do they do once they get a handicapped child on a horse? Walk, trot, play game, do exercises, jump, the works Daley claims. Even wheelchair people get into the act.
Terry Eissenfeldt, who is full-time caretaker-instructor at the centre, will be instructing the children on a voluntary basis. She will be attending the Western Canada Training Conference for the Ride for the Disabled in Langley October 1, 2 and 3 in preparation for the program.
Rotary is providing the financial backing for the project, which includes buying equipment and paying to stable donated horses.
According to club president Ken Rimbey, the plan whereby people donate a horse for the winter, on the basis that the program with pay to keep it at the Equestrian Centre, has advantages for both the owner and the program.
“If you donate a horse for the winter you can still go down and ride it. Only you know there are certain nights when you can’t. So its a good deal for both parties.”
Some of the gear needed for the horses is being loaned or donated but Rotary will make, buy, or rent anything else that is needed.
The Ride for the Disabled movement, which is now spreading into western Canada, is already well established in Britain, Europe, Australia, and the US, as well as eastern Canada, she says.
If the local group meets the safety standards set by the Pacific Ride for the Disabled, the provincial organization operation out of Langley, on October 17, they will become an officially recognized branch of that organization.
The way Eissfeldt barked the orders from the centre of the ring as the children went through their paces at a practice half hour ride Tuesday night, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they won’t.
This all goes to show the riding for the disabled is serious business. Anyone interested should be out at the Equestrian Centre at 2 pm Sunday to see the official opening of the program, complete with local dignitaries, including mayor Brian Palmer.